Last summer I really wanted to go to the beach. We actually did take a trip to Galveston right after my husband retired, but the weather that week was uncharacteristically cold and rainy, and although we got to sit out on the beach a few times, going in the water was out of the question.
Some time around the Galveston trip, I broke my foot, and it took the whole summer for it to heal. I had a soft cast on it that I couldn’t even dunk in the bathtub, let alone the Gulf of Mexico. When I finally got the cast off in August, I had hopes for the weekend after Labor Day. Then we heard about the state retirees’ association bus trip to Branson, and decided to do that instead.
So two weeks ago, when my husband asked what I wanted to do for our anniversary, I had an immediate answer. I wanted to go to the beach. In fact, I wanted to go to Pensacola, but was willing to go to Dauphin Island, which is a little closer, and near Mobile if he wanted some nightlife. After a little checking around, hubby suggested Gulf Shores instead. I had never been to Gulf Shores, but friends have gone and love the place.
Then hubby had another bright idea. Instead of staying at an expensive hotel on the beach, we could spend a lot less if we stayed 12 miles from the beach at a hotel in Foley. The hotel was right on Highway 59, and the beach was a straight shot to the south of it.
The day before we left, John started packing sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, cookies and fruit in our cooler to take with us for picnic lunches. The hotel provided breakfast, so the only meals we would need to eat out were two dinners. Even for my normally thrifty husband, this was a little overboard. OTOH, his usual MO at the beach is to allow me about an hour before he starts asking what we are going to do next. So the picnic lunches sounded promising: I might actually get to spend a good part of the day in the surf and sun.
I suppose I should explain why my husband does not like sitting on the beach. He is very fair skinned and burns easily. Not only that, but his hair is thinning and he can even get sunburn on his scalp. I, on the other hand, have skin tones of a warm Mediterranean olive and with reasonable access to sunscreen, rarely burn. I don’t think I ever had a sunburn as a child, back in the days before SPF anything, even though my grandparents had a summer home on the water* where we went crabbing, clamming and puttering around in grandpa’s little boat.
John also needs to be in perpetual motion. When we got home from our trip yesterday, he spent the afternoon doing his laundry, gluing down loose carpet in his car and putting more insulation in the attic. As I write this, he is outside prepping the eaves in front for repainting. I, on the other hand, have an endless ability to sit and loaf. I can work hard when needed, but I don’t go out of my way to look for things to do.
We arrived Monday around one. Check in time wasn’t until three, so we went straight to the beach and ate our picnic lunch, but we weren’t dressed for splashing in the surf. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Fort Morgan, a pre-Civil War fort that was important in the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Tuesday morning, we were up early and I finally got to go to the beach. “I just remembered something,” I told hubby. “We forgot to pack towels.”
“The water is still too cold to go in,” he opined. “No one was in the water yesterday.” I put on my suit anyway, after a liberal slathering of sunscreen. Hubby put on jeans, a ball cap and a long-sleeved polo. I started to picture a very short and uncomfortable hour or so on the beach.
When we got there, people were in the water. I left my shorts on over my bathing suit and strolled down to the water’s edge to at least put my toes in. On the way I saw the one person on the beach wearing more covering than my husband - a woman in a jilbāb and headscarf, watching her children play in the surf.
The water is cold at first, but as I got used to it, I strolled in further. I decided to go back to my chair, take off my shorts and get all the way in. “It’s not bad once you get used to it,” I pointed out to hubby, who was reading a paper and eating the cookies he brought with him. A gull swooped down and grabbed a cookie out of his hand. I left him swearing at the gull and went off to enjoy the water with a growing crowd of other people. At some point I renewed the sunscreen and fed peanuts to the gulls before spending more time cavorting in the water, walking up and down the beach, and hunting for seashells.
We hung around until an hour after lunch, by which time my skin was starting to feel a little prickly. Then we went shopping at the big outlet mall across from the hotel. We went back to walk on the beach at sunset and listened for a while to music from a nearby club.
The next morning, as we were packing to leave, I noticed that John is sunburned. Everything from his eyebrows down to the V on his chest where his shirt was opened, including his ears, was cherry red. “I thought my hat would be enough protection, but it wasn’t.” I, on the other hand, have one nasty burned patch on my left shoulder where I missed with the sunscreen and otherwise look like I haven’t been near a beach for a year.
My precious baby. He spent half a day roasting on the beach with nothing to do just to make me happy. That’s true love.
*Okay, I know that sounds luxurious, but for “summer home” picture a rundown bungalow they got at a distress sale price and for “boat” picture a rowboat with an outboard motor. I grew up in a working class home where we never had to worry about food or necessities but we wore a lot of hand-me-down clothes and summer trips to grandpa’s were the only vacations we ever took, and they were usually day trips.